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Amelia was... nice. She was also smart and kickass at fighting, as John would say, so accepting an invitation for a drink in the mess wasn't a problem until he realized she wanted more from him than the camaraderie of brothers-in-arms. He wasn't ready for that and, truth be told, he doubted he could ever return her affections. He watched Amelia walk away. Ronon had already loved and lost the only woman who had ever made his heart beat faster, and the optimist within him - that had kept him alive and running for seven years against all odds - still hoped he might have a chance with the one man who had quickened his blood since Melena.

Rodney 'Acerbic, incredibly smart, surprisingly gullible, terrified of his own shadow, yet willing to walk into a Wraith Hive Ship for his team' McKay.

The man had turned his life upside down from the moment they met, which was a strange Lantean turn of phrase as McKay had been hanging upside down at the time, caught in one of Ronon's Wraith traps. He was so different from anyone else Ronon had ever met and he had worse table manners than Ronon, which made it far easier for Ronon to fit back into 'civilization on Atlantis. After all, no one commentated on Ronon using one of his many knives to slice and eat food while Rodney was across the table waving his hands around and talking, talking, talking, often with his mouth full of food. And it was fun stealing food from him, watching him go all red, and flustered, and agitated, and grabbing back his tray to protect what was left. His blue eyes were always so bright and if Ronon hadn't known better he'd be convinced McKay was still taking the Wraith enzyme.

Rodney could be surprisingly astute on occasion, and impossibly naive the rest of the time; a dichotomy that never failed to amuse and bemuse in equal measure, adding to Ronon's interest in the man. So when Rodney began courting Jennifer Keller Ronon felt he had little choice but to court her as well, expecting to win her affections so Rodney would be 'safe', and then he planned to let her down gently. John, Lorne, and the Lantean soldiers would call it cock-blocking. Unfortunately he had messed that up badly and she had chosen Rodney over him, but Ronon hadn't needed to look too hard to see the cracks in their relationship. He liked Jennifer. She was pretty and smart, and a doctor like Melena, but she was no good for Rodney. She wanted things he could never give her, and all the best intentions in the world would never change Rodney into the partner she needed by her side.

Still, Ronon had wanted Rodney to be happy, but now they were back on the Lantean's home world - Earth - he had seen those cracks widening daily. The only person who had not seemed to notice how he was spending less and less time with Jennifer, and far more of his off-duty hours with Ronon was Rodney. Even John had remarked on it, and he could be just as oblivious to social cues as Rodney.

Teaching Rodney how to play Strada - a Satedan strategy game similar to Chess - had been the key. For the first time Ronon could prove he was more than a 'caveman' or 'Ronon the Barbarian'. He had shown Rodney he had a brain beneath his dreadlocks. He was about to leave the mess hall when Teyla sat across the table from him, picking at a muffin.

"Did you hear the news?"

He shrugged a negative.

"Rodney and Jennifer have decided to end their relationship." She raised one eyebrow knowingly, reminding Ronon why she had been the Athosian's leader and chief trader.

Her words made him sit up straight. Teyla was one of the few who had noticed how his interest in Rodney had grown beyond the Platonic of team and comrades in arms.

"Rodney will be spending the next few days with Jeannie before returning to Atlantis, but I do not believe it is to find solace with family. It was an amicable break-up with both realizing they could not meet the needs of the other." She smiled slyly. "Perhaps he will be more suited to another," she teased.

Thoughts swirled around his head.

Ronon had vowed to keep fighting until Pegasus was free from the scourge of the Wraith. The monsters had made their last stand above Earth, seeing it as their last hope of finding 'food' now that feeding in the Pegasus galaxy was akin to playing Russian roulette due to Michael spreading the Hoffan plague. As a threat they were finished, starving, so forced to turn to the Lanteans for the gene therapy that would end their reliance on the life force of others. Ronon knew it was time to put all mourning for Melena and his former life aside and to fully embrace the new life he had made for himself on Atlantis, and he knew it was time to stop waiting for Rodney to catch a clue. It was time to make his feelings known.

"See you later."

He noticed her eating her muffin with gusto as he left, her work done no doubt.

Back in his quarters Ronon stood in front of the mirror and pulled a particularly sharp blade from where it had been hidden in his dreadlocks. Slowly he sawed through all the thick braids, leaving at least five inches from his scalp. He looked down at the mass of matted hair, seeing it as cutting away his past. It felt instantly freeing to lose the weight of so much hair and the raw memories that went with it, finally letting go of the grief as was Satedan custom. He still had a lot more to do until he was satisfied with the outcome but after removing a final hidden knife he decided to elicit the help of Sergeant Mathers for the next part.

Mathers owed him from when Ronon saved his life while off-world, preventing him from being eaten by a Wraith.

As he sat on the special chair set up in Mather's work room, all of Ronon's years of running and hiding, of remaining motionless for hours on end, played to his advantage. Mathers, who was also the expedition's barber, began to tease apart the remaining hair methodically, eventually running out of small talk and focusing on the quiet task that would take hours. Ronon spent the time reading off the tablet Rodney had given him. It was loaded with games as well as movies but he turned his attention to the Tau'ri books.

Sateda had been different from many other Pegasus worlds, refusing to give up its knowledge, its arts and culture, and eventually being used as an example by the Wraith, obliterated for daring to use technology and rise up against them. On his world it had been normal for every child to have an education and to work hard. It had also been normal to be taught how to fight and use weapons from an early age because the Wraith had been a constant threat.

Ronon had never mentioned the purpose of his Specialist role in the Satedan Planetary Forces, letting his team and the Lantean soldiers believe it was just a title, a rank, but he was not just one of the best fighters in his unit, he was also their linguist, and it was his knowledge of various Pegasus languages that had kept him alive in the years that followed Sateda's downfall. He had never mentioned it to Rodney because, strangely, Rodney considered linguistics one of the soft sciences, treating it with a little disdain even though Ronon knew for a fact Rodney was fluent in at least three Tau'ri languages, Asgard, and Lantean.

In his downtime on Atlantis, when he wasn't in the mood to watch the latest crop of action and horror movies, Ronon had accessed the network and self-taught the written version of the primary language of the expedition - English. He already knew Lantean, admittedly not the 'technobabble', just the main language in spoken and written form, though he had never seen any reason to mention it to anyone other than Elizabeth, who had shared his love of languages. He still missed their late night discussions.

It took a while but eventually Mathers made him lean back so he could wash the teased hair. It felt strange yet soothing to feel another man's hands on his head, almost relaxing him into a stupor as the fingers massaged his scalp. The products he used smelled sweet, like coconut and vanilla, and by the time Mathers had finished, Ronon's hair was over twice the length. He watched in the mirror as Mathers cut away a few more inches of ragged ends, leaving his hair hanging almost to his shoulders, and looking far healthier than expected.

"Looks good. Thanks."

Mathers grinned. "We're still not even. Not by a long shot."

Ronon shrugged and walked away, barely noticing the double takes as he walked along the corridors back to his quarters.

Two days later Rodney was back, but Jennifer had elected to take up a post at AREA51. She had never acclimatized to the danger of being in the Pegasus galaxy, or to stepping into Carson's role as Chief of Medicine on Atlantis. It was not that she was bad at her job. On the contrary, but Ronon knew her well enough to know she had hated spending so much time on departmental paperwork instead of on the research that had taken her so far from Earth. At AREA51 she had the best of all worlds - her own small department and the illusion of being safer. It was as if she had forgotten how many times the Tau'ri world had faced its enemies in the skies above the beautiful white, blue, and green world.

Ronon found Rodney in his favorite laboratory, seated at a work bench and fiddling with some Ancient device.

"McKay."

Ronon smiled as Rodney visibly startled, barking out without even turning to look.

"I'm busy. What do you want? No, wait a minute. I don't care what you want. I'm busy. Go away."

Rodney treated everyone the same way, including John, so Ronon had learned to ignore his 'bark'.

"Prefect to Assassin Five. Give Quarter."

Rodney swiveled on his stool, his eyes flickering rapidly, and Ronon knew he was pulling up a mental image of their latest game, trying to see where he had gone wrong and calculate how to get out of the trap Ronon had set. He must have come up with a move - possibly the Tradarian Maneuver - as he stared right at Ronon with a grin only for the smile to falter and his blue eyes widen.

"Eh, have you trimmed your beard?"

Ronon raised an eyebrow. He had tidied his beard, trimming it close and he wondered when Rodney would notice he'd cut his hair too. He was also dressed in Earth clothing, jeans and a tight t-shirt.

"Huh!"

And there it was; the reason why Ronon believed he had a chance to win Rodney. It was a look, hot and needy, quickly vanishing but not fast enough to fool Ronon. Casting thoughts of Strada aside Ronon knew it was time to make a different kind of move. It had worked once before, winning Melena's heart, and he hoped it would work again with Rodney. He stalked forward, ignoring the rising panic Rodney displayed whenever someone did something unexpected, cupped his hands around Rodney's face and kissed him, leaving no doubt of his intentions towards him. Ronon pulled back and waited as the stunned look became an awe-filled smile.

"Really?"

"Yeah," Ronon replied.

His mouth twisted in a familiar way. "No. Really? You wait until I almost make the biggest mistake of my life before letting me know you're interested?"

Ronon grinned while Rodney's hands flayed around as he carried on rebuking him for letting him think they were both interested in Jennifer when they were actually interested in each other.

"You could have said something," Ronon pointed out.

"Oh yes, and had my ass handed to me the next time you gave me fighting lessons."

"Already do that."

Before Rodney could lament on all this rough handling Ronon pulled a granola bar from his jean's back pocket.

"Double choc!" Rodney exclaimed, snatching it and almost inhaling the first bite before he had finished tearing off the wrapper.

Their next kiss Rodney tasted of oats and chocolate, and he displayed the same amount of enthusiasm in kissing Ronon back as he had in attacking the granola bar moments earlier. He felt Rodney's hands in his hair and that felt so good too.

"You cut your hair," Rodney mumbled. "looks good," he added before diving in for another kiss.

Ronon would explain Satedan custom and the relevance of his hair cut later, of how he had cut away the sorrow of his past.

It was a new start for both of them... and Ronon knew it would be perfect.

END